Hunter College Professor to Teach First Ever Transgender Poetry Course

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A professor and poet at Hunter College will run a course in transgender poetry this fall.

Trace Peterson, an activist for “transgender representation in poetry,” calls this course the nation’s first to be fully dedicated to transgender poetry, according to PBS Newshour. Peterson notes, “Literature departments and studies of literature are very comfortable approaching transgender subject matter as theory, or as types of metaphor. But there’s very little study of literature by transgender people.” Peterson hopes to begin to correct this lack with the initiatives of this new course.

Peterson also discusses the possibility for more transgender representation in publications and conferences, an area which Peterson herself has attempted to improve. For instance, she is the editor and publisher of the journal EOAGH, and according to the article on PBS.org, she also is a co-editor of an anthology of Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics. The anthology is titled Troubling the Line and it was released in 2013. Both of Peterson’s projects publish work by transgender poets, providing more visibility of the issues surrounding transgender and queer people.

In her discussion with PBS, Peterson also points to other organizations that are doing their part to bring more awareness and representation to these groups. For instance, she mentions Writing the Walls Down and Them. Two journals that “center on transgender and queer writers of color” as well as “poetry by transgender authors.”

According to the article, Peterson was also vital in VIDA’s inclusion of a transgender women category in their annual count of representation of women in literature and gender disparity. This year was the first to see such a category after Peterson and others lobbied for its inclusion. VIDA representatives were eager to be as inclusive as possible and have dedicated themselves to continue to provide as much representation for women writers as possible. Additionally, this year saw the Lambda Literary Awards first ever category for transgender poetry.

Peterson describes the importance of poetry to many who are a part of the transgender community: “Before transition, poetry offered to me the possibility of trying on different versions of myself, a way of channeling possible selves through associated chains of sound, imagery, and thought,” she says.

Read more and listen to audio of one of Peterson’s poems here.